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Mendocino County Today: April 26, 2013

The Caltrans Bypass Wetlands ‘Mitigation’ Fiasco

by Will Parrish

“Learning more about the sustainable approach and care that has gone into the Willits Bypass Project offers special insight into Caltrans’ application of contemporary and world-class engineering practices.” — Caltrans Willits Bypass Project News Web Site

BypassPhaseITo justify raising a 20-to-30-foot high earthen wall on either end of the small northern California town of Willits, connected by an elevated two-lane viaduct spanning the wetlands of north Little Lake Valley, Caltrans and the various federal and state agencies involved have devised one of the most elaborate and expensive proposals to mitigate ecological damage in California's recent history. The total mitigation bill is an estimated $80 million.

Notably, Caltrans has not yet received this funding from the state agency in charge, the California Transportation Commission. Even so, the Army Corps of Engineers and other regulatory agencies have allowed Big Orange to barrel ahead with the project.

Most of the effort and expense of the “mitigation” involves replacing the nearly 90 acres of wetlands on Little Lake Valley's northern end that Caltrans plans to destroy. The scale of destruction is greater than most onlookers realize, owing in part to most regional press outlets' apparent resistance to reporting serious details of the project. These wetlands are crucial to the health of the entire Little Lake Valley watershed, functioning much like the valley's kidneys: absorbing its waters and slowly releasing them back into the system. Caltrans' permit to fill them is the largest the Army Crops has granted for any project in Northern California in the past half-century.

Big Orange touts the wetlands Mitigation and Monitoring Plan (MMP), as it's called, as a model for a “sustainable approach.” Most key political and regulatory officials are going along. Yet, although the process of developing the mitigation scheme has played out for a number of years and involved input from countless regulatory agencies, the mitigation scheme would probably cause much more ecologically harm than good as currently proposed.

Little Lake Valley would likely be better off, in other words, if Caltrans was offering no “mitigation” at all.

Over the years, Caltrans has floated various ideas regarding how to compensate for the destruction of the wetlands. The current phase began in earnest in 2008, when the agency's real estate arm began buying up greater and greater amounts of ranchland throughout the valley — ultimately, roughly 2,000 acres — to carry out the MMP. Several regulatory agencies, including the Army Corps, met and determined the parameters for Caltrans to follow, which revolve around the idea of “no net loss of wetlands.”

The agencies first deferred to Caltrans to develop its own mitigation plan. From the outset, it was clear that Caltrans had little idea how to go about “replacing” nearly 90 acres of wetlands and was trying to get away with doing as little as possible to mitigate the damage to them.

Owing to its 25-year struggle using the courts and the regulatory system to oppose the Bypass, the Willits Environmental Center secured the rare opportunity to be a part of the meetings where the agencies formulated their wetlands mitigation strategy. “Caltrans repeatedly proposed that the Agencies issue the permits and trust that Caltrans would make a plan later that meets their needs,” Ellen Drell of the Willits Environmental Center noted.

Not until March 2010 did Caltrans finally release its first draft mitigation proposal, which the Army Corps actually turned down. A second proposal in June 2010 also met with disapproval from the Army Corps. The haphazard document merely identified all the properties that Caltrans had purchased as “mitigation properties” and largely proposed to employ cattle grazing as the primary means of “wetland enhancement” on these lands.

In September, Caltrans submitted a final draft of the mitigation proposal. Again, the Army Corps would not go along with Big Orange's abysmally incomplete mitigation ideas. By denying Caltrans the permit, the Army Corps sent a jolt through Caltrans' grid of political support, including the office of the erstwhile US congressional representative for this area, Mike Thompson.

A long-time booster of the Bypass, Thompson's fourth largest career donor is also one of the most powerful political forces advancing the project: the construction lobby. On September 11, 2010, Thompson's office dashed off a letter to the Army Corps urging the Corps to meet regularly with Caltrans to hold their hand through the process of developing a satisfactory mitigation plan, and to notify his office any time the two agencies were to meet.

Under pressure from Thompson and other quarters, the Army Corps agreed to develop a mitigation plan on Caltrans' behalf. One of the Army Corp's regional wetlands experts, Dan Martel, determined from his field surveys that Caltrans could satisfy the “no net loss” condition if cattle grazing were removed from 1,100 acres of the 2,000 total that Caltrans had purchased for the mitigation. The idea was that Oregon ash and other native woody vegetation would eventually re-establish itself, thus restoring soil organisms and moisture to those lands enough to compensate for the 90 destroyed acres of native wetlands.

While Martel's mitigation proposal was based on a number of highly questionable assumptions — and the idea that it is possible to replace a wetland surely rates high on the list — the link he made between cattle grazing and wetlands destruction is clear. There are varying ways to graze cattle that are more or less ecologically friendly, but these livestock animals as a general rule destroy native vegetation and compact the soil, which causes the water to rush into streams generating high peak flows that erode stream banks and deepen channels during storms. As a result, water tables are lowered and less water is available in the soil for the late summer, potentially drying out riparian and wetlands area. Over time, re-vegetation of formerly grazed areas can allow the soil — and thus the watershed — to recover.

Not surprisingly, local ranchers who had leased their land and now hold grazing lease agreements with Caltrans were outraged. Martel's recommendations meant the ranchers would no longer be able to graze on the lands as per usual, or possibly at all. It met with resistance from other powerful quarters as well. Ultimately, the agencies involved, along with Rep. Mike Thompson and the Farm Bureau, negotiated to reduce the mitigation area from 1,100 acres to roughly 400.

“Martel's field notes containing his assessments and recommendations appear as appendices in both the October 2011 and the January 2012 MMP, but his recommendations were never incorporated into the body of any subsequent document that was circulated to the public, draft or final,” Ellen Drell notes.

The final draft of Caltrans' MMP revolves around digging out concave areas with backhoes or other heavy machinery where water will collect in pools. The specific areas in question are mainly uplands that parallel the levees on Davis and Outlet Creeks on the north end of Little Lake Valley. These are natural levees inches to a few feet above the surrounding wetlands where sediments from floodwaters have been deposited across geologic time. They are areas found in any dynamic wetland or floodplain, which add richness and diversity and help regulate the transport of water.

To boil it down, Caltrans intends to take ecologically valuable areas that are already part of functioning wetlands, scrape away the healthy top layers of soil, and then claim by virtue of the water collecting in the newly concave areas that Caltrans has created wetlands.

To make matters worse, the areas that Caltrans plans to make concave feature a number of mature valley oak trees, which would be flooded and destroyed by the “new wetlands.” The water that Caltrans' “new wetlands” would capture typically drains into Davis and Outlet creeks, helping to maintain their flow rates. And the Department of Fish and Wildlife and National Marine Fisheries Service weighed in during the MMP process saying that these “new wetlands” would cause fish which have been washed out of the stream channel during floods to be stranded in these low areas as flood waters recede.

Caltrans has only addressed that final concern, and then only by promising to help maintain the man-made levees that already exist on the creeks (which are causing the creek banks to “channelize” and sediment to fill in fish spawning pools to begin with).

The plan Caltrans and the Army Corps settled on also involved aggressively planting native wetland plant species in many areas, rather than allowing the land to recover on its own with only occasional human intervention. Meanwhile, grazing had been restored to the vast majority of the land. There is no scientific basis for Caltrans' mitigation proposal, nor has this exact model of wetlands mitigation ever been tried anywhere else on any project.

Even so, on February 16, 2012, the Army Corps finally issued Caltrans a “conditional” permit to build the Willits Bypass and fill in the largest area of wetlands in northern California since the mid-20th century. Although Caltrans has not yet met the conditions of the “conditional” permit, including one that says they need to prove they will receive funding for the mitigation work before initiating construction, a January 2013 letter from Caltrans engineer Geoffrey Wright expressed confidence that the Army Corps would soon sign off on the start of construction, with a start date of “+/- January 28th.”

BypassViaductThe Timing of Direct Action

On that same morning, 24-year-old Amanda Senseman of Willits scaled a Ponderosa pine tree, where she would remain in a platform 71 feet in the air for the next 65 days. Though countless people in Willits have opposed the Bypass across the decades, the regulatory system had failed and direct action had become the most viable means of carrying the opposition forward. As Caltrans continues to move ahead with the project, the direct action against it stands only to grow.

The Wetlands That Already Exist And Would Be Destroyed

To provide a more complete sense of what's at stake, I offer some more background on the Little Lake wetlands that actually do exist. Little Lake Valley as a whole, in fact, once teemed with wetlands; marshy areas that formed when the area’s once-lively streams overflowed their banks and scoured the surrounding meadows with moisture and nutrients. The Central Pomo people knew the area by the evocatively intimate name Mto’m-kai, which closely translates to “Valley of Water Splashing the Toes.”

As Willits’ settlers set about gridding the land and marketing it to cattle ranchers and timber merchants, they rapidly removed the wetlands. The early Euroamerican pioneers incised streambeds, redirected creeks, constructed artificial drainage ditches, and ripped apart the hardpan layers of topsoil that contained the water, allowing it to seep slowly into the ground. Most American settlers, as with Caltrans now, regarded the wetlands largely as a nuisance and desired greater and greater dry land.

Some of the moisture that time had stored on the land remains, though, most notably within the marshy area on the north end of the valley, extending across Route 101 on the west and Reynolds Highway on the east.

The wetlands work as follows.

Several of the valley's waterways — Berry, Davis, Baechtel, Broaddus and Willits creeks — flow north. During the winter months, the flows from these streams collect and form a seasonal lake and wetlands: Little Lake. The overflow from Little Lake creates Outlet Creek, a mighty 130-mile tributary of the Eel River.

Among its other contributions to what might be called the “real world” of inland Mendocino County, this watershed provides the longest remaining run for the endangered Coho salmon of any river tributary in California.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, wetlands in general are second only to the ocean in the number of biota inhabiting them. They are natural recyclers of water; as water flows through them minerals, sediments, and contaminants are absorbed and transformed by the plants, animals, and bacteria that occupy the many niches available. The nearly endangered tule elk, which re-emerged in Little Lake Valley this past summer after being gone for more than a half-century, a wide range of migratory birds, fox, rabbits, raccoons, opossum, bobcats., a variety of reptiles and amphibians, and hundreds of deer are only some of the wildlife that depend on the area and would be trapped on one side or the other of this monumental dirt and concrete obstruction.

The specifics of Caltrans' plans to destroy these are also worth reviewing in detail. To harden up the this soft, moist ground with its extremely fine sediments, and thereby make it suitable for 18-wheelers bouncing and careening through the valley at highway speeds, Caltrans first intends to piledrive 55,000 four-inch polls called “wick drains” into a large portion of the wetlands. These plastic drains would be spaced on a grid three or five feet apart depending on the saturation of the soil. In preparation for thus torturing the wetlands, according to the Bid Package Caltrans advertised to engineering companies in 2012, it ordered roughly 1.35 million meters of plastic drainage wick material.

WickdrainSampleTranslated: 839 miles of plastic drains (55,000 of them) would be driven into Little Lake as part of this project.

Caltrans briefly mentions the wick drains in Section 5.5.6 of its 2002 Draft Environmental Impact Report. According to Big Orange's ghostwriter, though, “These minor and isolated intrusions are not expected to impact the quality of groundwater.” The statement defies common sense, being that the drains are being used specifically because they are effective at evaporating water from the soil. What is more, the turbid water the wicks generate may drain into the adjacent Outlet Creek. Caltrans has never formally evaluated the adverse impacts of this sediment to the adjacent creek.

As part of filling in the wetlands, CalTrans intends to scrape between 12 and 40 cubic acres of topsoil off of Oil Well Hill, just north of Willits. Big Orange would orchestrate these excavations to the tune of an estimated 200 dump truck trips delivering gravel, soil, and asphalt in Willits every day for roughly two years. (A cubic acre is a cube of about 70 yards on a side, or 70 x 70 x 70 = 343,000 cubic yards per cubic acre. Your average dump truck holds between 2-5 yards per load depending on size and fill.)

Caltrans' Other “Mitigations”: More of the Same

Caltrans' Conceptual Mitigation Plan document, published originally in 2002, designates 11 aspects of the Bypass construction that legally necessitate some form of “mitigation.” In addition to the wetlands, these include a pair of federally-listed endangered plants, salmonid habitat, seven riparian acres that Caltrans intends to destroy, and 23 acres of oak woodlands.

• Oak Trees: Caltrans counted 1,815 oak trees that would be cut in the project, most of which have already fallen to the saw, when its contractors surveyed the route in 2003. Their contractor, Atlas Tree Surgery of Santa Rosa, felled most of these trees in late-March and early-April, including many that are at least 200 years old.

Again, it would be impossible to “mitigate” this damage. Nevertheless, Caltrans has a proposal to do so. Actually, they have three contradictory forms of mitigation that they have thrown out in three separate documents, such that not a single one of them can actually be taken seriously. One document shows the amount of mitigation money for this aspect of the project dropping $3 million by slashing the amount of money allowed for things such as oak mitigation. Instead of $20 per oak sapling, Caltrans changes it to $5 per sapling. The number goes from 33,000 trees to 15,000 trees and 1,000 acorns. Another document says “if available.” “Why would a contractor plant trees when all he has to do is claim they are not available at $5 per tree?” asks Rosamond Crowder of the Willits Environmental Center.

• Endangered Grass: Caltrans' “mitigation” on North Coast Semaphore Grass, a federally listed endangered species, began in mid-January. Caltrans hired a group of individuals, led by local Willits plant expert Geri Hulse-Stephens, a director of the Resource Conservation District (which manages the mitigation land of the project), to “relocate” the grass to a location just to the side of where the Bypass would run. The transplanting effort consisted of digging out the grass, walking it 50-100 yards across meadow, and re-planting it there. The area adjacent to where this wetlands grass will be partially dewatered by wick drains, then filled and compacted. Despite the fact that Caltrans hired people to walk across the field with the grass and transplant it to a new location, it will almost certainly die once construction begins.

• Salmon Habitat: The project entails various kinds of impact to fish habitat, including the destruction of seven acres of riparian areas. Removing the trees from these areas invariably will cause sediment to wash into the creeks, for instance, filling in spawning pools. It will raise the temperature of the water, making it much more difficult for cold water-loving fish species such as the endangered coho salmon to survive.

Willits rancher and artist John Wagenet summarizes the impact of wick drains on the salmon runs: “This absurd concept will not only create a dam above but a compacted dam below grade as well with unknown groundwater consequences. All this in the very sensitive headwaters of the Eel River with the longest salmon and steelhead runs on the north coast.”

Yet, the impact that Caltrans and the Army Corps have attended in greatest detail is piledriving. In short, piledrivers of the size Caltrans plans to employ shatter the ear drums of juvenile fish.

One ill-defined way Caltrans would address the problem would be to dewater entire sections of creek. Section 4.2.3 of Caltrans' Conceptual Mitigation Plan notes, “One possible measure to minimize this harm could be stream dewatering, if water is present. The length of stream channel that would be dewatered would be determined through consultation with NMFS and CDFG fisheries biologists.”

It continues, “In order to dewater a stream reach within the Modified Alternative J1T [the route of the proposed bypass] area, cofferdams could be set up. Caltrans proposes to construct cofferdams with the use of heavy equipment below the OHWM. Riffle crests would be generally used as the locations for cofferdams. Juvenile salmonids may seek cover under cobble substrates during the time of year that cofferdam construction would be taking place, and they could be killed or otherwise adversely affected. Additionally, short term increases in turbidity and suspended sediment could affect fish behavior. To minimize these effects, block nets could be set to capture fish and relocate them temporarily prior to cofferdam construction.”

Nowhere does Caltrans offer details on how or where it plans to “relocate” the fish.

(Contact Will Parrish at





ONE OF OUR finest poets, Mary Korte, has been arrested at the Willits Bypass protests. One of Mary's most memorable poems is “Throwing Firecrackers Out The Window While the Ex-Husband Drives By.”


An overflow crowd of local and out-of-town citizens staged a demonstration and sit-in Wednesday at the Willits Caltrans Headquarters to protest Caltrans’ bypass through the ecologically fragile Little Lake Valley. Over 80 people rallied at the corner of Baechtel and East Hill Roads carrying a long banner reading: “Caltrans—Hands Off Our Little Lake Valley.” Protestors, including many elders of the community, gathered in the Caltrans parking lot. Caltrans locked their doors, and refused to meet with a delegation, including local officials. Two women, Priscilla Thomas, 76, and Mary Korte, 78, were arrested, one while blocking a Caltrans vehicle, and the other blocking the entrance to the locked office. They refused to move when told to leave by CHP, who share the same building with Caltrans. The delegation from Save Our Little Lake Valley, an expanding local organization opposing the Bypass, had requested a meeting with Caltrans Resident Engineer Geoffrey Wright on April 12. They submitted a list of questions to his office. To date they have received no response. “Our request to meet was being stonewalled,” said Sara Grusky of SOLLV. “That’s why we were compelled to come here in person to make our statement. The concerned citizens of Willits and the broader community are adamant their concerns be heard. We can wait no longer.” Since April 2, when five tree-sitters were arrested by riot-clad California Highway Patrol officers (many of the tree sitters having been arrested at gun-point), two new tree-sits have gone up, both on creeks that are considered Federal fisheries protection zones because of their endangered coho salmon and steelhead. A ban on clearcutting in the fisheries zones expired on April 17, making the treesitters the salmon’s only defense. The bypass has been contested since its inception nearly 50 years ago, when planners expected large increases in long-distance traffic volume. Many believe the current project is outdated and oversize for current conditions. The Caltrans webcam just north of Willits shows the traffic this freeway would serve.

Protesters claim that the effects on local wells, farmers, fisheries, and public safety have not been fully disclosed, much less addressed. Caltrans has come under increasing scrutiny recently, with legislators and taxpayers calling for greater controls and accountability. The agency, which has a budget of $12.8 billion, has little review or control from outside. After it was discovered that Caltrans employees had falsified safety checks on 11 bridges and causeways, Senator Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, introduced Senate Bills 425 and 486 calling for a new office to investigate Caltrans activities, and for peer review on the design of large projects. Citizen groups across the state have mobilized against projects like Niles Canyon, Richardson Grove, and the Willits Bypass, claiming that local concerns have been ignored by Caltrans.


OPEN LETTER TO THE MENDOCINO COUNTY FILM COMMISSION (and its chief, Debra DeGraw, who also runs the Coast Chamber of Commerce):

Hi Debra—

I've been waiting to hear from you for quite some time, hoping for an apology for your remarks at the Board of Supervisors meeting on Dec. 17, 2012, when you referred to the local citizens who opposed filming ‘Practical Magic’ on the Mendocino Headlands State Park Land as ‘terrorists.’ After the horrific tragedy in Boston last week, you must realize what terrorism really consists of, and how extremely insulting and defaming your deliberate labeling is. As I tried to explain to you, a group of residents made legal appeals to the Board of Supes and the Cal. Coastal Commission. This is a legitimate procedure, not terrorism. The definition I have of Terrorism in the deliberate use of violence against citizens for political aims. When you erroneously state that we drove Warner Bros out of town, you were distorting history. If you look at the facts, you have to admit you were wrong, and that it was the decision of State Parks not to extend filming time that ended this project for Mendocino. Rick Smith, whom you mentioned to me as corroborating your false version of history, will back me up on this. The public has every right to take an opposing position on projects like this that affect their lives here, and that misuse public land and roads. Opponents of ‘Practical Magic’ were protesting the proposed location, not the film project, which was true of the majority who spoke against the ‘Need for Speed’ using major roadways instead of back roads. I strongly disagree with the current policy of our Supervisors to issue film permits without first holding a public meeting for input. If this policy is based on your misleading presentations of the facts, it should be changed. Watching our rights as citizens eroded by your untruths is extremely worrisome to me. I still hope to hear from you.

— Alice Chouteau, Fort Bragg


Gibson, 2/2011, 10/2012, 12/2012, 4/2013
Gibson, 2/2011, 10/2012, 12/2012, 4/2013

MR. CHARLES HENSLEY (below) has been arrested in Mendocino County for several years, and like Mr. Gibson (above) he's just about gone, a slo-mo public suicide.


EDITOR: A short clarifying peace on the state of our State.

I have been disheartened to see the confused state of America. Robert Reich, a former White House insider, did a fine job of amalgamating my thoughts with this short piece — Miguel Lanigan, Clearlake Oaks.

* * *

"Rand Paul is now near the top of the GOP's list of presidential contenders. Even Ted Cruz's star is rising. I'm old enough to remember when there were liberal Republicans who joined with liberal Democrats to do what the nation needed, such as enacting the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, Medicare and Medicaid, and the Environmental Protection Act. But the Grand Old Party threw out its liberals and then kicked out its moderates, and is now the party of xenophobes, homophobes, misogynists, and reactionaries -- who cling to their so-called right to own assault guns but don't give a hoot about the rights of Americans accused of crimes to have lawyers and criminal trials, who are so concerned about fetuses they deny women rights over their own bodies but don't give a damn about babies without adequate nourishment or health care, who refuse equal marriage rights but consider corporations people under the First Amendment, who don't want to close tax loopholes for the very rich but are eager to cut housing vouchers and Head Start for the poor, and who call themselves patriots and wrap themselves in the American flag but don't care enough about the well-being of their fellow Americans to want to finance good schools and adequate heath care for all. Bobby Jindal calls the GOP the "stupid party" but I think he's being too generous. It's the regressive party, dedicated to an America that no longer exists if it ever did. Some say there's no real difference between Democrats and Republicans, but that's absurd. Just open your eyes. Our democracy needs at least two robust political parties but the GOP has proven itself incapable of governing."


FROM A RECENT CHRONICLE obituary: “Born Jan. 20, 1924, transitioned April 20, 2013.” Transitioned? To what? Hopefully, a less corporate noun.


STATEMENT OF THE DAY: “And the heat goes on. In the last few weeks, new data from the CryoSat satellite system have shown that there’s only one fifth as much sea ice in the Arctic as there was in 1980. New data from the carbon dioxide monitors on the side of Mauna Loa in Hawaii showed the second-greatest annual leap in atmospheric CO(2) ever recorded. A new study of temperature records dating back 11,000 years showed that the planet is currently heating up fifty times faster than at any point during human civilization. New data from the Arctic showed that over the last thirty years vegetation zones have moved seven degrees latitude further north. In other words, the planet continues to show the effects of the early stages of global warming, and those effects are very large. If the one-degree Celsius rise in temperature observed so far is enough to melt the Arctic, we have to ask what further increases will bring.

“We will, sadly, find out. At this point, almost all observers agree that because of the inertia in our political and economic systems, it would take an all-out effort to hold temperature increases below two degrees Celsius, the red line that the international community drew at Copenhagen in 2009. And there is no sign of that all-out effort; instead, there’s a constant push to drill and frack and mine for more oil and gas and coal. Instead, also in the last few weeks, Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson announced that the company would double the acreage it is currently exploring looking for new oil.

“Meanwhile, a new oil find in California was reported to be four times larger than the new oil patch in North Dakota, which was itself compared to Saudi Arabia. And that’s just in the US — in Australia, a new find of shale oil in the Ackaringa Basin was estimated to be even larger than the tar sands of Canada, with estimated recoverable reserves worth as much as $20 trillion.

“The mighty political power of the fossil fuel industry has so far been enough to obliterate reason — we’re now a quarter-century past the day when NASA scientist James Hansen first announced in Congress that it was ‘time to stop waffling so much and say that the evidence is pretty strong that the greenhouse effect is here.’ Those twenty-five years have seen no real climate legislation passed by our Congress. A few countries — notably Germany, which is now supplying 22 percent of its energy needs with renewable sources, and headed for more than 40 percent within a decade — have made good-faith efforts. But in most places the fossil fuel industry has prevailed, both by funding disinformation campaigns and by purchasing the affections of enough legislators to make sure the status quo persists. One sounds like a broken record for saying this, but so far democratic systems (and pretty much every other kind of system) have proven no match. (Bill McKibben, NY Review of Books, May 9, 2013


MAUREEN MURPHY OF PETALUMA WRITES: "My son had been bullied by two boys (a grade older) from 1st to 3rd grade. At the beginning my advice to him was just to stay away, since he couldn’t tell me of a particular incident. At the end of 2nd grade I picked him up from school and asked him how his day was and he just started sobbing, my heart sank. The same two boys had climbed up onto a play structure that he was on and started kicking at his arms and body to get him to fall off. He wanted nothing to do with “tattle-telling” because he thought they would treat him worse if they found out. Being a mother I had to say something although since an adult hadn’t witnessed it nothing was done. In 3rd grade he had a wonderful teacher and school was getting better for him although there were times where he would seem so unhappy and wanted to change schools. I tried my best to encourage him and made his teacher aware of the situation so that she could keep an eye out. Finally at the end of his 3rd grade year a parent of one of the boys came up to me after school with her son and apologized for the torment and told me that she didn’t realize how bad they were treating him. A few days later when I was doing laundry I found an apology letter from the other boy in my son’s pants packet. Finally an incident was witnessed by an adult at school and the whole situation was addressed with the boys and their parents, I felt so much peace and so did my son."



I had to chuckle when I read in last Thursday's Journal about the latest from the ongoing Palace Hotel fiasco; when the putative owner talks about removing debris from the building, I recalled a recent aside in an AVA column on the subject, to the effect that the entire building IS debris.

Then, when I read that she had also, “retained a financial advisor to help with acquiring financing for the rehabilitation plans,” all I could think is that it is probably more likely that she will acquire financing from her fairy godmother; we're talking many millions of dollars, and anyone with that kind of money who would think that sinking it into following in Ms. Laines's footsteps of rearranging the deck chairs on such an obviously sinking ship is a good investment, should be put under conservatorship by his or her heirs.

Sincerely, John Arteaga, Ukiah


MIKE MONTGOMERY spent a week in Mendocino County last year where he worked on a documentary about the dope business. The video at the link below describes his own inadvertent experience with the love drug, confirming (again) that Mendocino County's casual tolerance, especially as it affects the young, ought to be re-thought:

Pass the chips…but hold the brownies:


LIGHTHOUSE LENS TOURS — The Point Cabrillo Light Station Historic State Park of 300 acres, will open its lantern room on Saturday, May 4th, for a rare chance to catch the view from the top of the lighthouse and see its beautifully restored Third Order Fresnel Lens in operation. The giant glass jewel first began keeping ships on course in 1909 when it was powered by kerosene. Electricity came to the station in the 1930s. The Head Lightkeeper’s House, impeccably restored, can sleep eight and has a gourmet kitchen. There are also two nicely restored cottages at the light station, perfect during whale watching season. Children must be at least 42 inches tall to join one of the tours running from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For information, call (707) 937-6122, or visit


MY GARDEN 2013 Fundraiser-Live Auction Sneak Peak

My Garden 2013. Saturday . May 25th . 2013 ~ 4 p.m.

* featured speaker kate frey: mendocino county’s resident world class garden designer, specializing in sustainable, bio-diverse, ecological gardens and landscaping. read more... (#kate frey)

* gourmet farm-to-table sit down dinner

* specially crafted beer from North Coast Brewing Company

* award winning wines from Yorkville Cellars

* live auction of brilliantly hand crafted one-of-a-kind: garden items

built exclusively for My Garden 2013 by Mendocino County craftsmen

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, 18220 N. Highway 1 . Fort Bragg . ca 95437. preview auction items & purchase tickets at



Limited Seating Available.

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